Mr. Wang Huiyao, President of CCG, Counsellor to the State Council
Mr. Guo Weimin, Vice Minister of State Council Information Office
Mr. Zhang Yichen, President and CEO, CITIC Capital
H.E. Laurent Bili, Ambassador of France
Distinguished guests and friends,
It is a pleasure to join you this evening for the opening of the 6th Annual CCG Forum on China and Globalization. As China’s global impact continues to grow your Center’s role as a forum for discussion on issues regarding globalization grows as well. Thank you, for all you are doing to foster inclusive and constructive dialogue.
This is a particularly timely event. We see the world wrestling with an array of challenges to multilateralism and globalization. I’d like to share some thoughts about those challenges, and about China’s potential role in overcoming them.
One current and quite urgent challenge is the immediate economic impact of COVID-19. The pandemic has disrupted global supply chains and led to a decline in global trade and investment flows. According to the World Trade Organization, global trade is projected to decline by 9.2% in 2020. The WTO also reported that the main risks to this projection are on the downside. If COVID-19 is not contained in the coming months, this global decline could transform into a more serious disruption of one of the key underpinnings of globalization: the expanding flow of goods and services between countries.
A second and deeper challenge is the anti-globalization trend that has been observed in many countries. This is generally understood to be the result of widening inequality around the world, and of the widespread view that globalization has produced a small number of ‘winners’ who have benefited handsomely from it, and a larger number of ‘losers’ who have seen their living standards stagnate or decline, as can be seen by growth that is accompanied by persistent, even rising poverty. In China’s case, although income inequality has widened sharply in recent decades, with the GINI coefficient now at roughly 0.46, there have been very few losers as can be seen from the sharp decline in poverty. However, growth in many countries, both advanced OECD economies and developing countries, including many in Africa, has not led to the same reductions in poverty. A recent study of poverty trends in Africa noted that “Economic growth, largely due to the sale of commodities, simply does not reach ordinary people.”
These challenges are serious, but I am hopeful their impact can be mitigated if policy makers in both advanced and developing countries learn the right lessons from them. The real challenge, and the great opportunity that we face now, is the need to learn these right lessons. I would say this; just as the UN is calling on Governments to use recovery programmes to “build back better” around the world from the harsh impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, let us also strive to build globalization back better from the current disruptions. Let us turn to a new and more sustainable globalization. That is, globalization that is sustainable in the three dimensions that were defined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; the economic, social and environmental dimensions. That is the true challenge facing us all today, in China and around the globe.
An economically sustainable globalization is not built on excessive debt, nor on resource-intensive development models, but on productivity growth that is rooted in poverty reduction, in human capital development and in innovation.
To cite one current challenge, China’s growing role in global investment flows has led to a rapid increase in the volumes of debt owed to China by a number of developing countries, many of whose economies have been hit hard by COVID-19. China’s leadership in global debt sustainability and relief discussions to give those countries an opportunity to return to healthy development paths will make a great contribution to sustainable globalization.
A socially sustainable globalization is one that reduces inequalities, not just among nations but within nations, with full attention to the impact that global trade and investment are having on local communities. It therefore has a reliable long-term foundation of political support. China’s commitments to the world on COVID-19 as well as its decision last month to join the COVAX initiative was an important expression of what the Secretary General of the United Nations refers to as a “people’s vaccine” and it demonstrates China’s support for a socially sustainable globalization.
An environmentally sustainable globalization is one that applies ever higher standards to international trade and investment, ensuring that our planet’s precious natural resources are protected everywhere, and that the shift to low carbon technologies is a global one, not a mosaic of high and low carbon societies scattered across the world. The UN noted with great appreciation President Xi Jinping’s pledge that China will achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Sustainable globalization will be further aided if that commitment can be extended beyond China’s borders to fully factor in the climate change impact of China’s overseas activities.
This is our challenge, and this is China’s challenge as well; as you strive to achieve the new national goals that were just outlined at your recent 5th Plenum, and pursue a more sustainable development model within China, to take full account at the same time of the impact your choices are having around the globe.
We owe it to future generations to build globalization back better. In 2020 we have been reminded dramatically of the vulnerabilities that still afflict people and nations around the world. The principle of leaving no one behind, no person or no nation, is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda, and it must be the foundation of the new sustainable globalization that we create together.
Let’s not assume it will be easy; it will not. But the UN in China hopes we can continue to count on China’s support. The temptation to prioritize achievement of national goals over global impact will always be there, in China and elsewhere in the world. But in the long run, without shifting to a sustainable globalization pattern, no country in the world will be able to achieve a prosperous and secure future. Let’s join hands to work together and focus on the global good.
Thank you and my best wishes for a productive forum.